New York Islanders: Josh Bailey getting back to Playoff form slowly but surely

Josh Bailey, the longest-tenured New York Islanders player, was off to a very slow start after a magical showing this past postseason.

But, over the last few contests, Josh Bailey looks to be finding his game. The Ontario-native has been a player over his 13-year career that has flown under the radar. But in huge situations, he seemed to be that player that always came through.

Whether it was his critical Game One overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins back in April of 2019 or his two-goal performance in Game One this past postseason against the Washington Capitals, Josh Bailey has made big plays in the blue and orange in recent years.

But last year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was the first time we saw Bailey dominate consistently. He racked up two goals and 20 assists in 22 games to help get the Islanders to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Islanders saw Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson come alive, as Bailey’s play was pivotal to the second-line’s success.

Unfortunately, Bailey’s confidence and decisiveness displayed in the postseason had not translated to this season through the Islanders’ first 11 games. He has recorded just one goal and two assists over that span as the NHL game looked to be way too fast for the 31-year old forward. And the same could be said for the second-line in general. Beauvillier was slumping prior to being held out of the lineup for nine games with an upper-body injury. Brock Nelson, up to this point, has still not scored a 5-on-5 goal this season.

Josh Bailey (12)

New York Islanders center Josh Bailey (12). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last five games, Josh Bailey has started to find his game for the Islanders.

The good news is that his frustration had not seeped its way onto the ice. After taking a minor penalty in the opening night game against the Rangers back on Jan 14, Bailey has not found himself back in the sin bin.

Head Coach Barry Trotz tried to get his second-line going as he moved Bailey to the top line and Jordan Eberle to the second-line. While that got Eberle going, Bailey had still not made the necessary adjustments to succeed.

However, over the Islanders’ last five games, Josh Bailey has six assists. Three of the assists have come on the powerplay, as we see Bailey thinking less out on the ice. It seems that he is gaining confidence, and his sneaky passes to his teammates in-tight have been his moneymaker recently.

In the loss to the Penguins on Thursday, Bailey ended the night as a -1, as he was a negative plus/- for the first time in six games.

Now some fans may say Bailey is not a player that should be getting top-six minutes anymore and that he would be a better fit on the third-line. And two weeks ago, I would have agreed with that statement and partially still do. But with the way the Islanders have been able to right the ship as of late, tinkering too much with the lines can prove detrimental.

Heading into tonight’s rematch against the Penguins, I am not entirely sure where Bailey will be slotted. As he has started to catch fire here, I think the perfect move would be to have him back on the second-line. With Beauviller back healthy and settling in, Josh Bailey’s strong play could help get Nelson and that line going as the new York Islanders look to get back in the win column.